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Child Care Disaster Planning Under Study By CSU

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Children at the Windmill Child Enrichment Center hold a check for $30,000 from FEMA (credit: CBS)

Children at the Windmill Child Enrichment Center hold a check for $30,000 from FEMA (credit: CBS)

WINDSOR, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s the first study of its kind in the nation. The goal is to save the lives of children who are in day care when a disaster like a tornado strikes.

The Windmill Child Enrichment Center was right in the path of the tornado that hit Windsor in 2008. But not one of the 130 children inside was hurt because the center had an emergency plan.

Researchers at Colorado State University hope to take the lessons learned at the Windmill Child Enrichment Center to other day cares.

Krysti Bernhardt will never forget that day. She was the director of the Windmill Child Enrichment Center on May 22, 2008 — the day a tornado came barreling through the school.

“It just looked like a big black cloud,” Bernhardt said. “We didn’t know it was a tornado until it got right above the hill.”

The staff only had seconds to get 133 children to safety.

“It brings back scary memories, but it also brings back memories about how well everyone did,” Bernhardt said.

It’s those emergency plans that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants to see more widely implemented in child care facilities. That’s why FEMA has awarded a $30,000 research grant to Colorado State University.

“This population has never before been surveyed, so we do not know what they’re doing or what they’re not doing to prepare for a disaster,” CSU Associate Professor Lori Peek said.

After the two-year study is complete the information gathered will be shared with child care facilities across the state to help beef up their emergency preparedness.

“This research that they do is definitely going to help us,” Bernhardt said.

There are 340,000 children under the age of five in the state. During the week a majority of those children are in child care centers.

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